commentary: Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing 2003 Exceeds Expectations

by Terry Wohlers

The RP&M 2003 conference and exposition, held May 12-15 in Chicago,
Illinois, was excellent. Organized each year by the Society of Manufacturing
Engineers, this annual event became the most important gathering of RP
enthusiasts in the mid-1990s. In recent years, however, attendance has
fallen, though the event is mounting a comeback. About 325 individuals
attended this year's conference, compared to 269 last year. Exposition
visitors declined by about 200 from last year's 1,570 visitors. Even so,
this year's exposition offered the most interesting set of products and
companies to date.

Objet Geometries (Israel) introduced its Eden 330 machine and a new
photopolymer, while Envisiontec (Germany) showed its incredibly simple
Perfactory product, a system based on Digital Light Processing (DLP)
technology from Texas Instruments. Sony, also new to the U.S. market,
introduced its Solid Creation System. The company showed its SCS-8000
stereolithography system and had an army of employees on hand. EOS (Germany)
displayed its EOSINT M 250 Xtended metal laser sintering machine, while
Arcam (Sweden) showed parts from its Electron Beam Melting (EBM) process.
Praxair, who teamed with Ford to develop Sprayform spray metal tooling,
showed parts from its version of the process. DSM Somos displayed complex
parts from its new ceramic-filled ProtoTool material, while Z Corp.
introduced its new zp250 material that works for snap-fit applications. The
list goes on and on, but I hope this summary gives you a feel for what the
event had to offer. If you add it all up, RP&M 2003 provided an exceptional
display of products and services from around the world.

Note: This is a Wohlers Talk commentary that was added to our website on May
26. Wohlers Talk offers thoughts, ideas, news, and summaries related to
rapid product development and other topics. Fifteen commentaries have been
published since February of this year. To view them, visit the following
page: http://wohlersassociates.com/Wohlers-Talk.html.



RP Machines at Service Organizations

Service providers, also referred to as service bureaus, offer prototypes to
design and manufacturing organizations as an outsourced service. These
companies also offer design, CAD, data translation, tooling, urethane
casting, reverse engineering, and other engineering and manufacturing
services.

Through the end of last year, 3D Systems dominated the installed base of RP
machines at these companies. 3D's share grew from 57.3% in 2001 to 61.4% in
2002. 3D Systems' technologies used by service providers include
stereolithography (44.7%), laser sintering (13.7%), and Multi-Jet Modeling
(3%). Stratasys is the number two supplier of RP machines to service
providers with 10.7%. EOS is third with 9.6%.

Note: The previous information was taken from the recently published Wohlers
Report 2003.



About The Wohlers Report 2003

This 270-page, softbound publication provides in-depth information on the
rapid prototyping, tooling, and manufacturing state of the industry. It
includes worldwide advances, developments, trends, growth estimates,
forecasts, analysis, and opinions. It also covers emerging applications,
opportunities, the lastest in technology research and development, and what
the future holds. Visit http://wohlersassociates.com to learn more about
this new market study.



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